By Ken Behr
Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling Purpose Driven Life, is often quoted as saying, “Healthy things grow.” As the pastor of one of the largest and most influential megachurches at the time, many pastors used Pastor Warren’s quote to push for numerical growth.
I confess I’m a fan of numerical growth. The Kingdom of God is for ‘whosoever,’ and there are literally millions of people that pass by our local churches every week that could benefit from not just church attendance, but the remarkable life change that accompanies any movement towards God and his Son, Jesus Christ.
However, Rick Warren has said that he is often misquoted in the “Healthy things grow,” as he was referring as much to church heath — not church growth — as being a primary indicator and primary concern. I agree wholeheartedly with Pastor Warren.
Church health should be the concern of every pastor in every church. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. In the church, our focus is on the person of Jesus Christ. A healthy church embraces the truth of Jesus as the Christ, practices and then celebrates the teachings and disciplines (i.e., discipleship) of the faith, including the essentials of the faith.
In these essentials, a local church will find that they not only have unity with the rest of the Body of Christ, regardless of denominational or doctrinal traditions, but will also find revival.
Growth is also process that leads ultimately to maturity. In this process, the Apostle Paul encouraged us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:1-2)
In this way, the Apostle Paul equates spiritual maturity with unity. This is why we are to walk in “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” All too often, many church leaders walk in arrogance and embrace their theology, morality or practices as being superior to others. This is exactly how the church becomes divided and weak.
When we embrace the fact that our theology is, at the best, somewhat flawed and that the Holy Spirit is not bound by our doctrines and traditions, we can begin to humble ourselves. In humility, we pray and believe that it is Jesus that is truly the head of the church and that any growth we see, either numerical or in spiritual health, is hopefully a result of the work of the Holy Spirit through His humble servants.
This work of the Holy Spirit can be found in the early church as recorded in Acts 2:42-47 where the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” When these early believers embraced the essential faith and found themselves having all things in common, the Lord “added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Spiritual health is definitely a precursor for numerical growth!
Ken Behr is the executive director of Faith Dialogue, a faith-based nonprofit in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.